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Lawsuits & Litigation

Taste the Toxin: California Lawsuit Claims Skittles Harbor Hidden Health Hazard

— July 14, 2022

The lawsuit claims that Skittles was manufactured using potentially genotoxic chemicals with the potential to change consumers’ DNA.

An unusual lawsuit filed in a California-based federal court claims that Skittles, the popular candy, contain a “known toxin” called titanium dioxide, making them unsafe and “unfit for human consumption.”

According to The Guardian, the lawsuit was filed by behalf of San Leandro resident Jenile Thames.

In his lawsuit, Thames claims that people who consume Skittles “are at heightened risk of a host of health effects for which they were unaware stemming from genotoxicity—the ability of a chemical substance to change DNA.”

The civil lawsuit, which seeks class action certification, alleges that Mars Inc. has long known that its Skittles have the potential to change human DNA.

In February 2016, for instance, Mars issued a public statement pledging to eliminate titanium dioxide from its manufacturing process.

However, Thames said that Mars was effectively “[blowing] smoke,” promising a titanium dioxide phase-out at the exact same time consumers across the United States were “calling on food manufacturers to use more natural ingredients in their products.”

Thames’s lawsuit states that Mars also fallaciously asserted that its food coloring compounds have no adverse effect on health human.

“Incredibly, Defendant even claimed that ‘[a]rtificial colors pose no known risks to human health or safety’,” Thames’ lawsuit said. “In doing so, Defendant concealed from consumers material information it knew.”

Gavel resting on open book; image by verkeorg, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.
Gavel resting on open book; image by verkeorg, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.

Thames says that, in spite of its shifting promises, Mars continues to sell Skittles with titanium dioxide in the United States, and is thereby “failing to inform consumers of the implications of consuming the toxin.”

The lawsuit notes that Mars’ ingredient lists vary, with some saying they “might or might not” contain titanium dioxide.

“Instead, Defendant relies on the ingredient list which is provided in minuscule print on the back of the Products, the reading of which is made even more challenging by the lack of contrast in color between the font and packaging, as set out below in a manner in which consumers would normally view the product in the store,” Thames’ lawyers wrote.

The Guardian notes that the European Food Safety Authority classifies titanium dioxide as “a pigment commonly used to provide a cloudy effect and white background color,” typically used in candy and baking.

The Food Safety Authority determined in 2021 that “titanium dioxide can no longer be considered safe as a food additive.”

“A critical element in reaching this conclusion is that we could not exclude genotoxicity concerns after consumption of titanium dioxide particles,” the organization said. “After oral ingestion, the absorption of titanium dioxide particles is low, however they can accumulate in the body.”

A spokesperson for Mars said that the company does not comment on pending litigation.


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Taste the toxin? Skittles ‘unfit for human consumption’, lawsuit claims

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